advanced motorcycle rider training

what do people say about Survival Skills?

SURVIVAL SKILLS RIDER TRAINING inspiring motorcyclists since 1997

We're often asked: "just what is it that makes Survival Skills different from any other training?" Well, here are two comments that really sum up the difference.

"The observation stuff you do really made me think. I thought [well-known advanced school run by ex-police] covered it all but that was like a 5 on the scale where what you do is a 10. 
I never realised you could get so much information as you ride!"

"I swear that Kevin is the most sensible talking, straight-up, common sense biker 

I've ever seen in 20 years”

That's just two of the nice things that's been said about Survival Skills and our training over the last twenty years. There's far more to roadcraft than 'observation, anticipation and concentration', Survival Skills are all about knowing what goes wrong, then why and how it goes wrong. Only when we know that can we start to really look for the clues that alert us to surprises lurking ahead. And Survival Skills is not about being able to put on the best 'police system of motorcycle control' demo ride that you can, it's about understanding that in real life however carefully we plan for things to go right, it's recognising and dealing with the situations that are going wrong that's the key to staying out of troubl eon the bike. 

Here's some other feedback from twenty years of training.

"I've done some other training. I like the Survival Skills approach” 

“at the Warren doing Bikesafe today... ‘best rider this year’”
- Stephen (a few days after his course with us)

"you've given me a good sense of what I can do to improve, rather than just hoping I will”- Bev

"I certainly feel that you have made a significant difference to my ability to observe, anticipate and respond during my riding”- David

"I've done Bikesafe and dabbled with the IAM, but the most practical and genuinely lifesaving training experience I've had...the course was short and intense but implanted deep subliminal awareness"- Jim ‘Melons’ Lynn

"I'd highly recommend both the course and doing it in France”- Colin

"I am totally exhausted and it was worth every penny"- Sue

"a pleasure to cover the material with someone who clearly knows it so well, and who also cares about the subject”- Bryan

"I'm more than happy to endorse the course - everyone should do one”- Tim

"Improving my Riding skills"

A write-up of a club training session (reproduced with thanks from the club magazine of the Thames Valley Virago Owners Club)

A couple of months ago Bob and I attended, together with a whole bunch of others, a meeting at the Three Pigeons pub in Thame and were given a very interesting talk by riding instructor Kevin Williams. During the evening he showed us clips from an motorcycle riding video and discussed various points of safe riding. From this meeting six of us decided to book up for a training session with him at the end of August.

Bob and I were due to have our session together with Brian from 1pm until 5pm Saturday afternoon – a couple of weeks ago. The day before, the thought went through my mind that we had about an hours' ride to get there and then followed by 4 hours riding and a further hour ride home was I going to be up for it (and I'd ridden to Czech and back !). I was almost wondering whether to call it off, especially as we were attending a wedding the day before. Thankfully as we had chosen the afternoon session, so we didn't have to get up too early.

As it was when we arrived at the meeting point and found John Stevens' sunning himself on the grass, he informed us that Kevin was running a bit late. With the extra time we had a drink and bite to eat and chance to relax before the event. Not that I was worried or anything. Just before 2pm, Arlene, Jan and F F F Pete all arrived back with Kevin having completed their session, with positive remarks about all having learnt a lot from their session. Then it was our turn.
Kevin sat us down and we had a chat about what we wanted to get out of the session together with the areas he wanted us to concentrate on. We were then equipped with radios and earpieces in order to receive our instructions and off we went. For the first part we took it in turns riding in front so that Kevin could assess our riding. I was first and for a while I thought there was a problem with the radio, as he wasn't saying anything. Eventually we got to a junction and he spoke!

After a few miles we pulled over and Brian took the lead, followed by Bob. We were then asked to pull up and Kevin gave each of us a critique on our riding and we discussed what we were looking to gain from the session.

Like a lot of riders, no matter at what stage of your riding career you're at, you know there's always something you could improve on. I felt like I had a long list ! The most important being, cornering – they still frightened me, also use of brakes and gears particularly whilst cornering and ….. cornering. And also road positioning. Over the next 3 hours or so we took turns riding in front whilst Kevin gave us instructions and guidance where necessary.
Our main objectives were riding to get maximum visibility on the road, and to be seen by other road users, cornering, keeping a safe distance, assessing the road situation ahead. It was a very good mix of country and town riding with one session in an empty car park where Kevin demonstrated riding in a straight line with no hands! That was the really advanced stuff! I won't be trying that yet. Counter steering was also explained and I think the penny has eventually dropped as I now find myself putting it into practise and achieving the desired result.
We eventually found ourselves in Oxford town centre where Kevin took the lead and gave an excellent commentary whilst riding. Although we were out for nearly 4 hours the time just flew by. I thought I'd really struggle and feel exhausted by the end of it of which I didn't. During the whole time I felt no pressure on my riding and was able very quickly to put a lot of what was demonstrated and discussed into practice. Kevin was an excellent instructor with loads of patience and the ability to put across exactly what he's looking for.

A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. I would recommend a session like this for any rider at any level. I'm not sure at this stage in the game whether I'll progress to take my IAM or ROSPA qualification, but I'd be very happy to do something similar within the next 12 months.

Many thanks Kevin. Julie Dawson

Just a small selection of our trainees over the years

And yes, that is a Moto Morini v-twin, top row, second from the right. Other bikes are an FZ6, F800ST, MT-07, ST1300, Triumph, Hornet and Tiger 800. Oh, and a lovingly restored Moto Morini. 

A new Bonnie, an old Bonnie, a couple of R1s, two Hornets and a Harley, and a CX500. 
Northern France, Yorkshire, Kent, Oxford, Kent, Wales (2:1 course with two friends), Oxford and the Dordogne.

Whatever you ride, however you ride, wherever you ride... Survival Skills has a course for you.

And just to prove things don't always go to plan...'s a write up by Steve Kelly of a trip he booked with his friend Julian to go training in Kent in October 1999. The plan was to meet at Dover at around 8am to catch an early hovercraft to France. Why the hovercraft? Steve had never been on it and they were about to be retired from service. Julian and Steve were both making the two hour journey down from Newbury in the morning. Over to Steve...

"Well I was up at 1am and looking at the moon at 2am thinking it was going to be OK. But the winds were howling around the garden. At precisely 04:10, the rain started hitting the front window. Really loud and enough to cause rivers to flow down the road. By the time I got to meet up with Julian at the Little Chef/Shell garage next to M4 j11, I was already feeling it was worth abandoning the trip. But that would have been too wise seeing I hadn't slept all night and had a cold. So we pressed on into the darkness of the early morning. 

On the A329 through Bracknell, I saw this BIG puddle, so indicated left hoping Julian would follow, but I noticed the blue glow of his headlight was aiming straight for the water. My bottom tightened as he reached the point and I was dreading seeing his headlight disappear to be replaced by a shower of sparks. Thankfully he didn't even see the puddle, so was relaxed as he hit it and came out of it with nothing worse than two bootfuls of water. 

Passing the M25 exit I could see a glow in the sky ahead. It looked as though the cloud was thinning. 10 minutes later the rain had eased and daylight broke through. It was now a little cold. Lots of wind chill effect going. We managed to hit the M26 then M20 and now the winds took over. Trying to stay in a particular lane was a major feat of counter steering/balance. Around Maidstone, the roads were dry in places. What was going on? Well I found the Maidstone services, but on slowing at the end of the slip road, I found my fingers had gone numb in the cold winds, and operating the controls was sort of interesting. Julian was even colder and thinks it was a highlight of the trip how he managed to coax the bike into the services whilst his hands/wrists/elbows/shoulders/back were frozen into position. 

We looked for Kevin's bike. No sign. I kept thinking, perhaps he's cancelled it. I think I was hoping more than thinking. As we parked our bikes next to each other in a car space I saw the right hand storm pannier cover before Julian did. It was ripped to shreds. All he could do was play with the shreds of plastic like it was going to fix it and make it all right. Never before I have relished the thoughts of eating in a motorway service area until that morning. I had prevented my feet from getting a good soaking by using plastic bags, and my hands were protected with surgical gloves, but my oversuit seemed to let water run down my next and soak the front of my sweatshirt. We sat in the services and luckily received one below my threshold of 'Rather you than me' comments from everybody that walked passed us! 

A little later I heard Kevin going through the car park. He had the disappointing news that cross channel services were suspended. We decided to press on. Of course, nothing running. On the way though I witnessed a fantastic piece of riding where the Instructor tried to run down a well respected member of the Kent Constabulary at 80mph [I just wanted to see why he was standing in the middle of the motorway! KW]. I've got to say the police in this part of the world are quite expert with arm signals. 

About two hours later after warming up and drying out at the Hoverport we had just decided to do the course in Kent when an announcement seemed to suggest the services were being resumed. On the bikes, into the queue, then we find the Hovercraft was a test run to see what the conditions were like and we were being transferred to the next ferry. 

Over to the Eastern Docks only to find the three of us couldn't travel on the 11am sailing, but we could all get on the 1pm sailing. Judging by the weather and the time we would eventually arrive, we listened to Kevin and gave up on the whole idea of trying to reach France. 

So we spent the afternoon taking it in turns leading whilst Kevin offered positive advice on how to stay up on two wheels in all sorts of riding conditions. My favourite radio transmission that day happened when Julian was leading. K: We will take the next turning on the left. K: That's the next on the left, left K: Take the next on the left, left K: Indicate Left, we are going left, left, left. K: Turn LEFT, LEFT K: OK, we'll go straight on then Only to repeat this on the next left! Julian had turned down the volume of the radio as it was distracting him.

At this point we noticed Julian's second pannier storm cover was actually holding about two pints of dirty water. They are supposed to keep the rain out, not hold the pannier in water. The only bad part of the afternoon was it was the glorious weather! We should have been in France. 

Well B&B was arranged in a very nice house with very nice gardens and a very strange landlady. We were sharing the room so when we were asked if we wanted a double bed or separate ones, we put on our deepest masculine voices and shouted SEPARATE in unison. 

The evening was spent being driven around roads unknown to the Ordnance Survey mapping agency by Kevin, only to stumble upon a pub in the middle of nowhere. We got a well deserved pint of beer only to find the place had no spare tables for food. Whilst drinking our beer, the normal jukebox music changed into something loud and obviously 'not normal' - next thing, my mouth opens wide, I place my pint down before I drop it and have the vision of not one, which would be a vision in itself, but TWO ELVIS PRESLEYs gyrating around the bar. I look at the missing 5th of a pint... Panic took over the four of us and we decided to the heck out of the place, (the fourth person being Kevin's brother, Leigh). 

We then headed to another pub that had a French restaurant. You could tell it was French as the vegetarian choice was one dish called Chef's Surprise! They had good beer though, and I was really not hungry having been awake for a silly amount of hours. We finished off the meal with brandy, and headed to bed. 

Next morning, this is getting irritating. Blue skies and sun. No wind. A perfect morning for riding. 24 hours before it was dreadful, even for the British weather standards. We spent the day putting into practice the lessons we had been taught the day before. Part of Sunday was spent in a car park. Kevin placed some small orange cones out as a slalom course. Whilst he was doing this, I suggested to Julian we should act real dumb and just run them all over as though this was quite the most obvious thing to do. It was then decided it Julian did it first, I would follow. 

Well I went first and of course hit a cone across the car park. Shouts of "SORRY" when you are laughing your head off perhaps isn't the best way to apologise to the owner of the cones, but it was just too ironic I had only been joking about doing this with Julian a minute before. I then got photographed looking like I was having a pooh. Not true, then we had a go at running Kevin down by practicing emergency stops. Steve on his CBR600 Well on a couple of my stops, I was really surprised to find myself on the front wheel only. I've been over the handlebars numerous times on a push bike and have the scars, but didn't really consider until then that I could replace my small scars with bigger ones on a motorcycle. I'm off to practice quite a few more stops until I'm happy I can stop on the front wheel without going over the top. No good to stop 10 feet short of a Volvo only to land on the ground and have the bike crush you. Better to use 9 of those 10 feet, then kick the Volvo. 

Things were more fun as we were riding faster. I was also really enjoying it as I was learning things, or more importantly getting shown how to put the theory I've learnt from books into practice. Things were beginning to 'click' into place in a way I would never have thought possible. I guess that was the highlight for me. Well worth the cost of the course. 

So guess what happened when it was time to depart? Yes, rain. Our journey to and from Kent would be marked by rain, with blues skies, pleasant temperatures, lights winds and starry nights in between! On the way home, instead of me leading all of the way, we took it in turns. Much more enjoyable. We avoided the motorways as it would have been boring. We probably took over 4 times as long to get home as we would have done if we simply got on the motorway and just rode like we were in a car, but I guess a number of those hours can be blamed on sitting next to a fire in a pub chatting/planning our next assault of France. Same pub as we planned our first one. 

Julian probably put more miles on his bike this weekend than he would do in two months of normal riding and was by any way you care to measure it, so much faster and safer on the way home. The transformation was a joy to watch either in following him or having his 'blue' headlamps remain in my mirror. I can't wait until I go for a ride with him next. 

So although we never got to France, we had a great time and we still have France to look forward to. Thanks Kev. Steve p.s. I've had to miss out loads. Like Julian unpacking his panniers and wearing a pair of wet jeans to the pub Saturday night. p.p.s. Or Kevin asking Julian at what speed does countersteering become effective. Julian replies, '30?', Kevin says, 'lower', so I reply in my baritone voice, '30?' " 

Thanks for the write up Steve! See what I have to put up with on my courses?